The woman who spearheaded the introduction of Project Grad to Alaska, Heather Pancratz, has been selected as the local organizations executive director. Pancratz served the national Project Grad organization as a new site coordinator for three months, prior to the local Project Grad's national search for a director. She was selected by the local board to lead the new organization from the 25 respondents to the national search. Pancratz hails from Wisconsin and since coming to Alaska with her husband, a commercial fisherman, she has worked at Homer Middle School as a teacher and counselor.
Project Grad USA is a Houston based education reform organization that works with communities and school districts to provide curriculum, staff training, and graduation incentives at member schools. The national program has seen high success rates at inner city schools and Alaska is Project Grads first introduction into rural communities. The program is being offered in seven communities of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Ninilchik, Nanwelek, Nikolaevsk, Port Graham, Razdolna, Tyonek, and Voznesenka. According to Pancratz, the Project Grad program has hit the ground running since its initial kick-off rallies last month, "In January we'll have full training for consistency management and the cooperative discipline piece, and then the students will begin to see that in their classroom, and next summer we'll have our first summer institute for the Project Grad scholars at each of the schools," said Pancratz.
Over the next two years Project Grad will be adding a total of 19 staff members including office manager, scholarship coordinators, and staff at each of the seven locations participating in the program. Pancratz says that fundraising activities to raise the $47,000 scholarship funds annually are already under way including families that are hosting dinners in their homes. She hopes to find 47 or 48 local businesses that would like to donate a $1,000 scholarship in their name on an annual basis and become a part of the program. For more details on becoming involved with the Project Grad program, you can call Heather at 235-5612.
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